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"Old People Smell": Does Body Odor Increase With Age?

Does body odor change as you get older? You may notice unique smells with older people but that doesn’t necessarily mean that old people smell “bad.” In this post, we will review the science behind this smell and answer questions such as:

  • Does your body odor change as you age?

  • Why do old people's homes smell?

  • How can you get rid of old people's smell?

Why Do Old People Smell?

Does body odor increase with age? Not necessarily. The fact that body odor gets worse with age could be a result of physical disabilities, which can, in turn, prevent people from bathing properly, for example. Additionally, this smell can get especially compounded in retirement homes and other senior living communities, creating the overall stereotype of “old people smell.”

However, older people do smell differently as they age. At about age 40, the body subtly changes the way omega-7 unsaturated fatty acids on the skin are degraded. These acids get exposed to the air and create a compound called “nonenal.” Nonenal most likely gets produced due to hormone imbalances. These imbalances occur as people age, resulting in more lipid acid. Additionally, our skin’s natural antioxidant protection declines and results in great oxidation of lipid acid. Nonenal is then produced when lipid acid is oxidized, creating this “old people smell.” Furthermore, chronic illnesses and diseases such as diabetes, uremia, eczema, and dermatitis can add to the smell.

How to Get Rid of Old People Smell in the House

Getting rid of old people's house smell isn’t as simple as just giving old people a bath. The fatty acids that create this odor are not water-soluble, so it can’t be easily washed off. However, there are some things you can do to enhance the smell of the living space. These methods include:

  • Air out living areas by opening windows and using ventilation. Warm and stuffy environments tend to magnify odors.

  • Wash clothing with laundry supplements designed to fight stains and cut grease.

  • Air out bedding between use and wash in hot water.

How to Get Old Person Smell Out of Furniture

As we stated in the previous section, getting rid of nonenal isn’t as simple as washing it off but you can still take steps to prevent everyday odors in your furniture. These steps include:

  • Line dresser drawers with dryer sheets

  • Mix water and vinegar together, wipe down the furniture, and allow it to air dry

  • Use wood soap products on wooden furniture and clean all edges and corners as well as under handles and furniture

  • Mix a solution of one part bleach and 10 parts water, and wet the area for 30 minutes to kill all germs

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Other Ways to Minimize Old People Smell

Finally, older people can help minimize smells on their own by engaging in a healthy lifestyle. Some of these activities include:

  • Drink plenty of water to dilute fatty acids

  • Drink green tea or a Japanese persimmon extract to break down the compounds responsible for the smell

  • Regular exercise

  • Clean eating

  • Decrease stress

  • Bathe with a fine salt or sugar scrub to exfoliate skin and remove oils

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